It’s a time of great change in fashion. As an industry, fashion has been slower to modernise than most. It was always going to be difficult to adapt the fundamental workings of established brands, and most small brands struggle with the challenges of business as it is, without further changes. It seems to have reached boiling point now where change is inevitable and things are finally starting to shift.
Almost all brands are now engaging with their audiences online, through websites, online stores and social media. This is comparatively new for luxury fashion, and is showing a more personal and interactive side to these previously untouchable brands. Overseas production prices are increasing, causing a shift towards home manufacturing and wholesale is becoming a more difficult route which, in turn is making many companies move to a direct-to-consumer businesses. Some women’s and menswear collections are being combined to streamline shows and sales schedules. And it’s nice to see serious designers now popping up from all over the world and choosing to be based in far flung locations rather than moving to the established fashion capitals.
The showing and buying schedule at the heart of the fashion industry is under question. Brands like Burberry are starting to sell their collections straight from the catwalk, cutting out the customary 6 month wait. It’s not so easy for new brands to do this, but they are trying various business models to get ahead, or simply to have a chance of survival. Strategies like crowd funding, pre-ordering and trunk shows are all being tested and creative thinking seems to be key to finding your place in the changing landscape.
In the UK Brexit has raised more uncertainty. While UK fashion sales are up in the short term due to the decreased value of the pound, the longer term effects are still unknown. I was at a fashion business workshop recently and the feeling was that ‘this is what has worked until now, but anything could happen from here’.
As the industry changes so does the role of the designer. Now you have to be many more things and particularly adaptable in the business environment. Your social media presence is as important as your collection and you have to think so much harder about how you take your product to market.
It’s a difficult time but also an exciting one. The mould is breaking and opening up the possibilities. It’s becoming easier than ever to connect and engage with your customer, which can only be a good thing. I don’t know where it’s all going to go, but I’m excited to be launching a brand at this interesting time, and to see where it takes us.